"Florida's state government is broken"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida's state government is broken. Limitless campaign contributions, too-short term limits and lax ethics rules corrupt the legislative process and fuel the public's frustration with a government controlled by special interests and influence peddlers." "Fixing a broken government".
"Political theater for ... a governor seeking national name recognition"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board warns against a "protracted fight, like the one that continues in Wisconsin, [as] good political theater for union leaders and for a governor seeking national name recognition. But it's a bad way to craft the best policy."
Nevertheless the editors continue their shilling for the Chamber of Commerce/League of Cites/James Madison Institute/TaxWatch axis, although even the editors have come to acknowledge that:
The many lower-income workers on state and county payrolls, whose pensions are relatively modest, would be hardest hit. We're talking about highway patrolmen, game wardens, clerks and secretaries."Avoiding war in Tallahassee".
Perhaps the editors - between their bouts of bashing police and firefighter pensions - might ask themselves why there are so "many lower-income workers on state and county payrolls".
Rubio stays under his rock
"Despite his high-profile post, Florida’s Republican 'rising star' is staying out of the spotlight." "In D.C., Marco Rubio takes measured approach".
Florida a proxy fight for 2012
John Kennedy: "Florida hasn't been rocked yet by the kind of political convulsions coursing through Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, where unions and Republican governors have squared-off in angry protests and even walkouts by Democratic lawmakers."
President Obama carried each of these states in the 2008 presidential contest and next year, combined, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Florida contain one-quarter of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
"Political spring training".
Florida is the largest of these toss-up states. And the Tallahassee power struggle, while growing more fierce, is clearly looking like a proxy fight or - this being Florida - spring training, for the 2012 campaigns.
"Gov. Scott campaigned on exactly what he's doing now, and, unlike a lot of politicians, he's keeping his promises," said Robin Stublin, with Florida Alliance, a coalition of 130 tea party groups planning to rally on the steps of the state's Old Capitol within hours of the session's opening.
Ethics challenged Haridopolos schedules dozens of fundraisers
Aaron Deslatte: "Senate President Mike Haridopolos enjoys one big advantage over his Republican rivals in the 2012 U.S. Senate contest ahead: he can use the influence of his powerful office to command serious campaign cash."
Unlike other potential GOP candidates such as former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux or U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, Haridopolos has direct control over whether a host of issues in the upcoming legislative session pass or fail. Companies and interest-groups with interests in those bills are eager to pony up big checks to presiding officers seeking higher office.
That's part of why state legislators are generally barred from fundraising during the 60-day session slated to start March 8.
But the prohibition doesn't apply if they're running for a federal office.
Haridopolos has lined up dozens of fundraisers over the next few weeks. And the Merritt Island Republican told reporters last week he had no intention of curtailing them unless incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, agreed to his own fundraising cease-fire.
intends to press on. And his spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, said Haridopolos needs to get his own house in order. Haridopolos last week was formally reprimanded by the Senate Rules Committee for not disclosing the names of clients who paid him for consulting work.
"Haridopolos has big fundraising advantage – his office".
"Someone who … admitted to serious ethics violations shouldn't be running around issuing challenges to others on how to behave in public office," McLaughlin said.
A message to you, Ricky
"Minutes after announcing the biggest raids so far against pill mills, South Florida's top law enforcement leaders last week sent a message to Gov. Rick Scott." "Politicians ask Gov. Scott to reverse stand on prescription drug monitoring program". Related: "11 South Florida pain clinics raided Wednesday".
Broward backwards on books
"Broward County libraries once again in budget-cut crosshairs".
While the rest of us were sleeping ...
... Florida firefighters were pulling the charred from human beings from their fiery death traps: "Two people were killed about 3:30 a.m. Sunday when the car they were in struck a tree ... and burst into flames. Hollywood Fire Rescue extinguished the blaze". "Two die in fiery Hollywood crash early Sunday".
And so it begins
"Demonstrators chanted 'Wis-con-sin' and 'the tea party's over' as they gathered in the sunny terrace between the state Capitol and Florida Supreme Court." "Pro-union rally held at Capitol" ("3 counter-demonstrators turn out to support GOP")
Haridopolos, the sorry state of Florida education
"His perch atop the state Senate earns him $41,181 a year. His salary as a UF lecturer is $75,000, paid for by private funds. He is tied for having the most expensive salary among six lecturers overseen by the provost’s office, according to UF figures. The average is $57,610. Critics questioned his academic credentials, as he has not finished his PhD at Florida State University." "State Senate president leads other life – as prof".
"His way or the highway"
"It hasn't been hard to figure out Republican Gov. Rick Scott's priorities as he heads into his first legislative session - his mantra has been jobs, jobs, jobs. What's less known is his strategy in achieving his top goals of making the state business friendly and trimming government spending."
[W]hile he pledges to cooperate, there are skeptics in both parties who are predicting he will start the session acting like a CEO whose goal is to push things through and ignore opposition.
"Gov. Scott's goals are known, his strategy isn't".
"It's like we're all his employees and it's his way or the highway. I think he doesn't realize that the Legislature is an equal partner," said Democratic House Leader Ron Saunders of Key West. "It's like a corporate takeover, he's now the CEO of a new corporation. He acquired all of us as employees and expects us to fall inline without asking questions."
RPOFers jumping on the TABOR bandwagon
The Miami Herald editorial board: "In Tallahassee, nothing could be more in vogue than trimming government spending. But bad things happen when everybody jumps on the bandwagon without looking down the road, as could be the case with a fast-tracked proposal to set strict limits on growth in state revenue."
This fad has been tried elsewhere, but its shortcomings forced an eventual rollback.The measure, sponsored by Fort Lauderdale Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and championed by Senate President Mike Haridopolos, was approved 5-2 along party lines last week in a subcommittee meeting before the formal start of the legislative session. "Don’t jump on this bandwagon".
Union busting under way in Tallahassee
Even the most predictable among us among us get it.
A column today by a noted right winger, Mike Thomas, although filled with misinformation and ignorance of basic principles of labor law (perhaps from spending too much time with his equally ignorant Chamber buddies), manages to muddle through to an obvious point:
[T]here is more than one way to bust a union. And the effort to do that is very much under way in Tallahassee. ...
Some Republicans are pushing legislation that basically would bankrupt the unions and eliminate their campaign contributions.State Sen. John Thrasher, the former chairman of the Republican Party, is leading legislators to the low road. He wants to forbid governments from deducting union fees from paychecks, and forbid unions from contributing to political campaigns without permission from members. This would pretty much bankrupt the unions and dry up a major source of campaign money for Democrats and various liberal causes.
It is a very big deal. The teachers unions spent millions trying to unseat Jeb Bush. They funded the class-size amendment, contributed to Thrasher's opponent in the last election, led the charge against a referendum that would have weakened the class-size amendment, and contributed to Alex Sink and the Fair District amendments, which Republicans are trying to overthrow.
Eliminating the union's political contributions would give Republicans a huge advantage in future campaigns.
I may disagree with many union positions [and he does]. But the fact that an organization disagrees with you doesn't negate its right to do so [big of you, Mikey]. ...
"Fight unions? Sure — but GOP plans go too far". The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Bill goes too far in curtailing unions' power in Florida".
If union members don't want to pay dues, if they don't like what their leaders are doing with their dues, they are free to stop the money from coming out of their checks any time they want.
Along these same lines, and although less than clear as to what her point is, Jeb-worshiper Myriam Marquez recognizes that "It's a question leaders of public unions are asking — from firefighters and police to teachers, bus drivers and school cafeteria workers. They’re all wondering how far Florida, already a weak 'right to work' state that allows unions to organize but leaves workers off the hook from paying union dues, will go." "Waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to blink".
Always loyal to his country club, Kingsley Guy, voice of the spats-and-ascot set, trips over his facts in a sad attempt to invoke FDR in a union-hating diatribe: "Straight-talkers hard to find".
Is there something that prevents knuckle-dragging gas bags like Kingsley from reading Florida's miserly labor laws? Although the right of Florida's public employees to unionize and bargain is a fundamental constitutional right it has been reduced to merely permitting employees to form an association, obligating the employer to bargain with the association, but if the parties can't reach agreement, the employer essentially has the unilateral ability to do whatever it wants. Florida's public employers are not required to agree to anything (except non-substantive provisions relating to arbitration and voluntary dues deduction), and just about everything else is subject to the unilateral determination by the public employer*. The only "pressure" a Florida public employee union can bring to bear is precisely the same as that as any other group of individuals - at the ballot box.
All of which makes it appear that Scott, the Teabaggers and the rest of Florida's Republican leadership are looking for straw men. Firefighters and cops: you're it.
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*Section 447.403, Florida Statutes provides as follows regarding the resolution of bargaining impasses: "(1) If, after a reasonable period of negotiation concerning the terms and conditions of employment to be incorporated in a collective bargaining agreement, a dispute exists between a public employer and a bargaining agent, an impasse shall be deemed to have occurred", and if the non-binding arbitration process fails to result in a contract, the statute provides in subsections (4)(c) and (d) that "(c) The legislative body [the city or county commission or Florida legislature, depending on who the public employer is] shall forthwith conduct a public hearing at which the parties shall be required to explain their positions with respect to the rejected recommendations of the special magistrate ... Thereafter, the legislative body shall take such action as it deems to be in the public interest, including the interest of the public employees involved, to resolve all disputed impasse issues". Game over - the final decision on contract terms is made by the employer.
The only exception in the statute to the public employer's absolute unilateral power to decide contract terms, including wages, hours and benefits (including pensions) is that "the legislative body’s action shall not take effect with respect to those disputed impasse issues which establish the language of contractual provisions which could have no effect in the absence of a ratified agreement, including, but not limited to, preambles, recognition clauses, and duration clauses." (Section 447.403(4)(e), Florida Statutes). Oh yeah, and then there's the part when employees already can quit the union and stop paying dues whenever they want. (Section 447.301 and 447.303, Florida Statutes).
And this is the oppressive "public employee bargaining" process that somehow coerces elected officials into handing out unseemly wages, benefits and pensions?
As for political activity, public employees associating with each other (an activity already constitutionally protected) and chipping in to support political candidates is hardly different than the influence projected by realtors, chambers of commerce, and the many other associations that interface with state and local government.
The difference, of course, is that public employee unionists, like their private sector brethren, generally support causes aligned with the interests of working people.
"Republicans have kicked over a political hornet's nest"
"Scott and the Florida Legislature's ruling Republicans have kicked over a political hornet's nest by promoting budget cuts, pension overhauls and civil justice changes, which are now emerging as targets for statewide rallies by Democratic-allied organizations." "GOP’s reform push stirs rivals".
"Lawmakers eye advertising on state parks and assets".
Did Scott break law in ousting advocate?
"Watchdogs of the nation's nursing-home industry are calling for an investigation into Gov. Rick Scott's abrupt dismissal of the state's long-term-care ombudsman, claiming that the governor's 'interference' was illegal. For two weeks, advocates for patients' rights have waged a campaign to persuade officials of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Administration on Aging to look into the Feb. 7 ouster of Florida ombudsman Brian Lee." "Gov. Rick Scott broke law ousting state's nursing-home overseer, watchdogs say".